Berkeley is a city of neighborhoods, each with independent mantra, mood and food. There’s something fun to see and do in every district of the city, and just as important, something delicious to nosh on practically every corner. Try pairing sightseeing with a local culinary adventure to explore each of Berkeley’s “boroughs.”
North Shattuck / Gourmet Ghetto
Cali cuisine got cooking in 1973 in the farm-to-fork kitchen of Chez Panisse, and today Alice’s restaurant continues to deliver the local and sustainable goods. Counter-culture icons like Cheese Board Collective, the original Peet’s Coffee & Tea, and Saul’s Deli and Restaurant (reinventing the Jewish deli) set the table for smart new kids on the block liks Local Butcher Shop and Mission: Heirloom. Be sure to check out the Peet’s Coffee Museum, tucked behind the barista, for the backstory on craft coffee. And, there’s really no better way to experience Gourmet Ghetto than the 2x-week tours run by Edible Excursions.
Berkeley’s buzzing city center, rich in arts & culture, now offers the new Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) and The UC Theatre. Wander through BAMPFA’s galleries and see art works from Buddha to Bauhaus. Babette’s Cafe at BAMPFA is not your standard museum fare by any measure, as many downtown workers will attest. Before or after the band plays the UC, check out Revival Bar + Kitchen for its “vitalitarian” cuisine and craft cocktails. Anytime is the right time for Almare Gelato. The understated storefront hides a jewel case of celestial Italian ice cream flavors that rotate by the season and stars.
Fourth Street never goes out of style, and is in fact usually a step or two ahead of the curve at any given moment. Its wide walks are lined with shops and restaurants. Iyasare and Zut Tavern to the west, Bette’s Oceanview Diner to the east, and in between, any number of delish specialty shops like Chocolatier Blue, Artis and Cultured, where vegetables go pro(biotic). Fourth Street is also home to Berkeley dine-icons Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto and Brennan’s.
Window shopping is on the agenda in the Elmwood, Berkeley’s throwback-chic neighborhood. Cafes with outdoor seating, too, like La Mediterranee. Sweet teeth are served well here by Ici Ice Cream and Dream Fluff Donuts. Oh yeah, the chic part– Lululemon Athletica and The Treehouse Green Gifts will work.
Indian Rock rises from the top of Solano Avenue like a stone sentinel, and short of summiting the Berkeley Hills to Grizzly Peak, there’s no better place to haul an Acme baguette and settle in for a Pacific sunset. Berkeley’s northernmost district is gateway to many of the public paths, steps and walks that Berkeley’s first settlers smartly carved into the hills. Traditional restaurant experiences rise up as well, like AKEMI and Rivoli.
One of the Bay Area’s most distinctive commercial districts, Telegraph Avenue connects Berkeley to Oakland — and to Berkeley’s free speech and flower power past. Urban explorers will discover poetry, art, music and more along its four-and-a-half mile stretch. This is where lattes were invented (really), where ice cream sandwiches became a thing, and pizza slice shops got their Left Coast zing. Two words: Top Dog, where wieners get radical.
Berkeley goes boho by the bay. Joining artist studios and galleries, including the creative warren of the Sawtooth Building, are some of the city’s best places to drink — see: Berkeley Local Libations. Tasting notes: Donkey & Goat, Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room, Takara Sake, Urbano Cellars.
Berkeley is ever-evolving and new neighborhoods tend to pop up — see the B-Side and Lorin districts — like radiant golden poppies through city sidewalk cracks.